A Pledge Not To Poach

The head of a group of local community development directors denies that cities and towns poach companies from each other. But the group’s members have agreed to sign a pledge not to actively solicit businesses in neighboring communities.

News that the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange was circulating a creed was highlighted when a Westerville business announced it was moving to Columbus. Exchange President Patty Dalton says she does not believe her economic development counterparts in central Ohio try to persuade local businesses to relocate. Instead, she says, those businesses approach local governments.

“What is happening is that a community is being approached by a company that has a need for different space, larger space, more current space,” Dalton says. “And they also know that cities have economic development tools. And so we are being asked by the companies, ‘What can you do to help me and my project?’”

Westerville, which until last year was a Development Exchange member, is losing Ohio Valley Cable Services because it could not provide room for the company’s expansion, according to the Westerville’s Julie Colley. Colley says budget problems caused a one-year lapse in the city’s Exchange membership.

Obetz Administrator Douglas Browell says he’ll sign the agreement – but the village has been following a similar protocol for years.

“We don’t initiate contact with a company in another mid-Ohio city to lure them to Obetz,” Browell says.

Only about half of the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange members have signed so far. Some officials says they’re waiting for review by local administrators. But the Village of Obetz’s Browell thinks it’s another step to attracting international business.

“We’re marketing the Columbus region. Obviously we’re living in a global economy, and the folks outside of Beijing may not know where Obetz is but they certainly can understand where Central Ohio is if we promote it as such,” Browell says.

A portion of the creed asks that businesses be encouraged to stay in touch with their home communities when considering relocation to another central Ohio locality.